Monday, April 11, 2011

Fifteenth Word: Caledonia

Caledonia Roman name of part of northern Britain, taken from the name of former inhabitants, of unknown origin, perhaps Celtic; since 18c, applied poetically to Scotland or the Scottish Highlands.

Edinburgh never fails to greet my guests with terrible weather. For a lucky few, the weather has only misbehaved for the first day. My family happens to be some of the lucky few. Fort William, however, knew we were coming to visit before seeing Edinburgh and put on a spectacular display of whipping wind and rain.  The family arrived two Thursdays ago and Alex and I met them at the airport where we rented a van to drive up to Fort William for two days.

The drive up was gorgeous: full of "oohs" and "ahhs" and one giddy "Oh, run!" from Linnea about the first frolicking lamb she saw (we don't get much of those in the US). Sadly, it is lambing season and the lambs received a majority of the "ooh look!"s from my family (they were really cute though....).

The highlands were huge. The mountains were at least twice the size I expected them to be. Their foreboding immensity was not only accentuated by the driving rains, whipping wind, and menacing grey clouds but by their treelessness. No one cared about the weather when it came to taking pictures. Too gorgeous for words! I've seen a lot of the world but the Scottish highlands would be part of my top recommendations. Something about this place resonates with me. I guess mountains always do....

Around late afternoon the weather quieted down and we reached Fort William. We drove to Inverlochy Castle, a ruin, which we romped around in and on and through. Quite fun and, I believe, the first castle experience for the family. We drove to our chalet next which had a great view of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. The air was humid but thick with the smell of campfires. We were in our element! After unpacking, we walked around the horse farm that the chalet owners run. Beautiful horses and an idyllic setting for a farm. Alex and Dad cooked us a "gorgeous" dinner of local mussels, scallops, and monk fish which we had picked up in Glencoe.

The next day we took a train over the Glenfinnan viaduct which made its debut in the second Harry Potter film. So what if it was raining. Harry Potter beats rain, always. It was so much fun. We walked around Glenfinnan and up to the viaduct. It was a fun but soggy morning. After getting lunch in Fort William, we drove through the Great Glen (gorgeous again!) as the skies cleared up. We hiked to a distant waterfall tucked back in the mountains. It was a wonderful and challenging hike up through the mountains. Unfortunately, my camera decided not to save about half my pictures from this hike and then it died entirely. Bah. At least I have memories! Such a fun two days. Blogs about the week in Edinburgh and the trip to York yet to come.

Say What?

A' GhĂ idhealtachd which means Highlands in Scottish Gaelic. It's pronounced (I think) geh-uhl-dechg where the 'ch' is like the one in Scottish "loch"